Everyone knows that a cheeseball enhances a Christmas party more when it is brought to room temperature beforehand. Everyone, that is, except our St. Bernard, Amy, who enjoyed it just fine right out of the refrigerator. We never figured out how she snagged the cheddar bowling ball from the middle of the kitchen table, or where she took her cheesy prey to devour it. But the incident ended the Age of Cheeseballs for us—we switched to imported cheese for holidays.
My best dog-Christmas ever was the one I spent at my mother-in-law’s house. Their family has a long-standing tradition of ordering hand-knit stockings for new additions, and that year, Judy had a special stocking made up for my dog, Rex. The thing is, my dog wasn’t even that nice to Judy. But that didn’t stop her from stuffing his stocking with chewy toys and tug-a-ropes. If that isn’t Christmas spirit, nothing is!
Every holiday, my four dogs want to again hear about how, years ago, my dog Bob successfully maneuvered an 11-pound frozen-solid turkey down off the kitchen counter (surviving the dog equivalent of a free-falling piano), buried the carcass in the yard and then dragged it back into the house when our replacement dinner was served. It is, for dogs, the ultimate Seasonal Tale of Hope and Renewal.
Sasha was a Shar-Pei with whom I shared my formative years. She dearly loved three things in life: her Nylabone, her tennis balls and assisting with the Christmas tree. She would watch as we hung the ornaments, and as soon as we moved on to a new section, she would gently take one in her mouth and beat a hasty retreat with her prize. Eventually, we gave up decorating the lower third of our Christmas tree.
For a holiday work-party, our colleague’s wife, Mimi, set a tray of sliced brick cheese, festively felled like rows of dominos, atop the coffee table, while Howard scrawled on the flipchart. Their Springer Spaniel, Ginger, expressed the only interest in the seasonal refreshments: She licked the entire arrangement and then, oddly satisfied, left us to our deliberations. Ever the hostess, Mimi returned just moments later, and throughout the meeting, to pass the tray among her husband’s associates. Oddly: no takers.
Stockings hung, candles lit, a quiet and snowy Christmas Eve. Then a noise from outside. I couldn’t believe the faces at the door: my Gordon Setter Leo’s brother, Riley, and his Bernese Mountain Dog pal, Spin. They’d somehow slipped out their back door and trekked two miles to ours, a journey they’d only made once, back in the fall, via a winding woodland path. What else could I say? “Leo, your relatives are here!”
I went to pick up my mother to bring her back to our home for the holidays. My dog Dooley—a lanky, mixed-breed, snow-white-and-liver-spotted bird dog of sorts—came along. Let me make it clear that he’s infallibly housetrained. We arrived at my mom’s, and Dooley went over to her Christmas tree, sniffed around and lifted his leg on a package. It ended up being a fruitcake. Good dog, Dooley, good dog.